Time and time again in my psychology practice I am told by my clients that one of the most useful things they have got out of coming for psychotherapy or counselling is my highlighting the role that our expectations play in our lives.
Why are our expectations so important?
I have found that faulty and unrealistic expectations underlie many of the issues that bring clients into therapy. Anger, frustration, depression and anxiety often a result of expectations that are out of sync with reality. For example, clients with anger and frustration problems will invariably think ” X should or shouldn’t act in a certain way” or in the case of road rage “that type of behaviour should not be allowed on the road” If you commonly use the words “Should”, “must”, “always” and “never” in your internal dialogue this is a sign that you are setting yourself up for frustration and anger, which is of course ultimately self-defeating and also potentially damaging to your health in the long-term!
Anxiety, on the other hand, is caused when we predict some dire event occuring at some time in the future – the “what …if” scenarios. When we get depressed we expect that nothing is going to improve and that we will always feel the same way as we do in the moment, which is, of course, also highly unlikely and unrealistic.
And then there are the cases of self-fulfilling prophecies when we predict some dire outcome and then unconsciously act in a way that brings these into being!
As most of the expectations that we harbour operate on a totally unconscious level, these tend to influence our behaviour and our moods largely outside our awareness. This dynamic forms the basis of cognitive-behavoural therapy, or CBT, which has been found to be extremely effective in enabling individuals to improve their moods and thus also their general wellbeing.
So I suggest that you do some self-reflection – get in touch with your expectations and think about how they influence your life and your relationships!